Your First 5K: What to Expect
Fall is a popular time for 5Ks races. If you’ve made the plunge and signed up for your first 5k this fall, congrats! The 5k, or 3.1 mile run, is the most popular race distance in the United States, with 7.6 million finishers in 2015 alone. Being relatively short compared to other common races, the 5k is a perfect first race for those who don’t normally run. Even if you don’t consider yourself a runner, the 5k can be a great fitness goal if you are trying to improve your physical health.
We know that race day, especially for your first race, can be nerve-wracking. To help you reach the finish line without a hitch, we created this quick tip guide so that you know what’s coming before, during, and after the race before you even set foot on the course.
1 week before the run
- Stick with 2 to 3 short runs this week so that you can be well-rested for race day.
- Don’t try anything new. This includes running shoes, gear, and food. You don’t want to give yourself painful blisters before race day.
- Since pre-race jitters are normal the night before a race, get good quality sleep in the 2 to 3 days leading up to the race.
The night before the run
- Lay out your bib, timing chip, running watch, clothes, and shoes the night before to avoid scrambling to find things on race day morning.
2 hours before the run
- Eat a snack or small meal consisting of simple, easily digestible foods with a little protein. One good choice could be pairing a little nut butter with a banana or half a bagel.
- Don’t eat anything on race day morning that you haven’t practiced eating before; you don’t want an upset stomach to keep you from meeting your goal!
1 hour before the run
- Arrive to the race 60 minutes early to allow enough time to park, pick up your packet, wait in the restroom line, and warm up before moving to the starting line.
- Warm up your muscles with light jogging or dynamic (moving) stretches. Avoid static (stationary) stretches before the race; save those for after running when your muscles are warm.
At the starting line
- Line up at the middle or end of the pack. Runners in the front typically are fast and running for a personal best. If you try to run with them, you likely will tire yourself out early on.
During the run
- Pace yourself. Save the fastest miles for last so that you don’t tire yourself out too soon.
- Keep a positive mindset, and enjoy the experience!
30 minutes after the run
- Enjoy the runner’s high, and celebrate finishing your first 5k!
- Refuel with a mixture of carbohydrates and protein to replenish your energy stores and rebuild your muscles. A glass of milk or cup of Greek yogurt is a good option.
- Stretch your legs, hips, and back to cool down and promote muscle recovery. You can find some helpful stretches here.